DILBERT © 1992 Scott Adams. Used By permission of UNIVERSAL UCLICK. All rights reserved.
Do you suffer from Dogbert’s anxiety? Do you feel that, if all your actions are shown to be the predictable outcomes of brain chemistry, then you’ll be missing something deeply important?
I don’t, and that’s because I’m a compatibilist. Compatibilism is a school of thought that runs from Thomas Hobbes in the seventeenth century (and some would say even Aristotle) to Daniel Dennett in our own time. We compatibilists have a robust concept of free will, which is not threatened by biology, or chemistry, or physics, no matter how Dilbertishly deterministic any of them turn out to be. Our philosophy is science-friendly and free-will-friendly at the same time.
In this post I’ll show you how to be a compatibilist Continue reading
When I went to Catholic school, we got our morals from the Ten Commandments. Apparently they were good and right because no less a figure than God had etched them in stone, somewhere above Mount Sinai, some time long ago. Christianity is one of a handful of the world’s religions that believe this happened; other religions and atheists do not. But isn’t it a question of historical fact; the sort of thing that impartial historians could settle by their usual professional methods? Alas no. It turns out that the tablets were broken later in the story, and the etching event was hidden from witnesses by a considerable amount of smoke: Continue reading
I support the legal recognition of same-sex marriage. I have never heard anything to change my mind, but it’s not for a lack of listening. As a matter of fact, I have developed a keen ear for anti-SSM arguments, but each one is either unintelligible to me, or has a short, obvious retort with no counter-retort that I know of. Sometimes I think the arguers must have misspoken, and I try to guess what they meant to say, but that doesn’t help either. Continue reading
Within the category of dystopian sci-fi, there’s a long line of stories in which some poor sod is, it seems, misled about everything. Plato had the allegory of the cave, Descartes had the malignant demon, Keanu Reeves had the Matrix. Somewhere in between the last two there was the story of the brain in the vat. Continue reading
Take “The moon is made of green cheese.” That’s just plain false, and we know it’s false because (among other reasons) we have taken parts of the moon and looked at them under microsopes.
Some statements are worse than that: some statements aren’t even false. Continue reading
Once long ago, I was an academic philosopher. Philosophy meant everything to me. Over and over, it taught me how to look at things in such a way that they could never seem the same again. But if you had asked me why or how, in those days, I would not have been much use. Continue reading